Investigative reporter Charles Leaf already had a reputation when he arrived at Fox 31 about five years ago, thanks to a 1999 incident that spawned a lawsuit and 2001 accusations that he'd used homophobic slurs against the subject of a story. But these previous incidents are nothing compared to the accusations he's currently facing. He was arrested yesterday for alleged sexual abuse of a four-year-old girl inside his New Jersey home.
According to "New Leaf," a January 2005 Westword profile, Leaf, an ex-Marine, saw himself "as a crusader. Yet several previous on-the-job incidents raise questions about his aggressive style. During a stint at a station in Mobile, Alabama, he was the focus of a 1999 lawsuit that impugned him for a 'willful physical attack' against a local councilwoman; the case was eventually settled. Two years later, while working in Detroit, a man told police that Leaf spewed homophobic obscenities and tried to attack him after the reporter was pelted with eggs while covering a story."
The first incident noted above took place in Mobile, Alabama on November 8, 1999. After a rambunctious council meeting, one official, Frela Wojciechowski, hurried to her car, with Leaf and a cameraman in hot pursuit -- after which Wojciechowski was allegedly squashed in the passenger-side door. Leaf insisted that he'd done nothing wrong, and he argued that videotape shot by his cameraman would have exonerated him had it not been recorded over before Wojciechowski filed a lawsuit over the incident. Leaf left the station a few weeks later; the suit was subsequently settled.
After Leaf landed in Detroit, he covered the story of residents being evicted from a building. There, reported the Metro Times, he was jeered by Sebastian Graham, the owner of a nearby home business, who thought the Fox station for which Leaf was working at the time had unfairly vilified the building's landlord. Then, after Leaf conducted some interviews, he and his cameramen were pelted with eggs, reportedly chucked by youth unhappy with Fox's coverage of the war in Afghanistan. When one of these hurlers appeared to disappear into Graham's home, Leaf went to the front door.
Leaf's version of what happened next? Graham shouted at him, but he didn't reciprocate. In contrast, Graham said Leaf "called me a 'cocksucker' and a 'faggot,' and his cameraman hit me. He tried to hit me, too, but he didn't make contact." Again, there was no footage of the melee -- and in the end, no charges were filed, with police citing a lack of evidence.
That doesn't appear to be the case this time around. According to WPIX-TV, Leaf, who left Fox 31 to join New York's Fox affiliate in July 2006, has been charged with first-degree aggravated sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault and second-degree endangering the welfare of a child. Bail was set at $250,000. He's next slated to appear in court on November 4.